Exploring Guatemala coffee
With a history of coffee production steeped in tradition and innovation, Guatemala showcases some of the highest quality coffee beans coming out of Central America. While the flavours you experience in certain coffees depends a lot on the specific region and processing methods used, we can expect coffee coming out of Guatemala to display fruity characteristics, toffee sweetness and chocolatey finishes. Guatemalan coffee producers favour the washed method of processing due to the tropical climate and heavy rainfall, resulting in incredibly consistent, balanced coffees.
With elevations ranging between sea level and 13,000 feet, Guatemala experiences a variety of climates depending on where you stand, allowing for a rich variety of crops to be produced. A biodiversity hotspot, Guatemala possesses an abundance of endemic species which thrive in the unique ecosystem. The land is threatened by earthquakes, severe tropical storms and volcanic eruptions. However hazardous, the volcanic landscape provides excellent soil conditions, allowing growers to boast some of the most productive coffee plantations in the world. As of now, Guatemala’s economy is primarily dependent on coffee, bananas, cardamom, and sugar, all of which are higher value export items than traditional agricultural products.
Historically, Guatemala’s economy relied heavily on the production and export of Cochineal dye (a red dye produced using the bodies of insects). By the mid-1800’s, the Europeans figured out how to produce the red dye artificially, devastating the industry and threatening the Guatemalan economy.
Coffee History – The Reformer
In 1871, Justo Rufino Barrios, an Army Commander with Liberal philosophies, overthrew the then Conservative Party government. As president of Guatemala, Barrios introduced several reforms, such as the provision of free education, and introducing the first railways, roads and telegraph lines. Importantly, to encourage rapid economic growth, he encouraged the Guatemalan people to grow and cultivate coffee plants to replace the now redundant dye products. Barrios earned the nickname of “The Reformer”, due to the changes he successfully implemented during his presidency, before being killed in battle in El Salvador in 1885. Coffee was the number one export out of Guatemala at the time of his death.
Nowadays, like many coffee producing regions, Guatemala faces its share of challenges. Lack of infrastructure, political tension, climate change, and labour shortages continue to threaten the industry. Producers are learning to adapt and innovate, by cultivating different varieties of coffees, diversifying their crops, and even using the leftover pulp from coffee production to create and sell fertiliser.
With help from PECA, a Coffee Grower Education Program striving to empower coffee producers with training and education, Guatemala is seeing increased growth and demand from the specialty coffee market. Guatemalan coffee producers are passionate about their craft, and this is reflected in the green beans coming out of the region. The group of small-scale farmers who produced La Conserva, represent a passion to grow and harvest exceptional quality coffee whilst innovating change. La Conserva is a green bean blend of Caturra, Bourbon, and Catuai varietals, lovingly roasted by Karvan and tasting of peach, caramel and red fruits. This bean is the expression of a coffee growing community working hard to share their passion and growing knowledge with the rest of the world, through the language of coffee.